Wed, 08/23/2023

Remembering David Jacobs

David Jacobs

We are sad to learn that producer/show creator David Jacobs has passed away at the age of 84. Jacobs began his career as a writer of magazine articles and non-fiction books, including a biography of Charlie Chaplin, before moving into television writing. He went on to create two wildly popular nighttime serials Dallas and its spin-off, Knots Landing.

Below are some excerpts from his 2008 interview:
On how Dallas came about, and pitching Knots Landing first:

"So I came up with an idea, had very lofty ambitions to do an American Scenes From a Marriage times four, four families living on a cul de sac in Southern California. Now I mentioned Mike Filerman, Mike Filerman was the guy I was gonna develop the show with. When I said I wanted to do American Scenes From a Marriage he said let me screen a movie for you, and he screened this trashy movie called No Down Payment, which was about these people living on a cul de sac. So that became the basis of our friendship and our partnership. I wanted to do art, he wanted to do trash, and between us we did television. It was a beautiful marriage. It was really great.

He took me into CBS, we pitched that show, which was called Knot’s Landing, and CBS said, well, no, we like -- we like this kind of idea of getting into this domestic drama. We like you two guys, and we think we’d like to do something with you. But if we get into this area let’s start with something a little more glitzy, a little richer, a little more of a saga. Oh, a saga, which meant Texas to me. I mean, I had driven through it once fast. And by the way we have Linda Evans under contract for her own show. So go home and come up with something. Well, to me go up and come home with something meant that night.

So, two or three days later I had the whole presentation for Dallas written. And I sent it over to Mike and said here’s what I want to do, and it said on the cover “Untitled Linda Evans Project”. So, I called him up…and I said, ‘What’d you think?’ He said, ‘Oh, I already sent it in.’ I said, ‘Oh, great, you could’ve told me.’ He said, ‘The only thing is I tore off the title page. It’ll never be good for Linda Evans ‘cause they’re looking for a featured thing, this is an ensemble piece.’ And I said, ‘Oh, what’d you call it?’ He said, ‘Dallas.’ I said, ‘Dallas?’ I mean, Kennedy was killed in Dallas, I don’t know if I want to do this in Dallas. First of all, it was oil people, and Houston is the oil city, Dallas is the banking city. So, Michael says, ‘Who knows that? Who cares? Do you want to watch a show called Houston?’ So, I said, ‘Well anyway, we’ll change it later.’ So, they were very happy about that and they ordered the script and I wrote the script, December 10th, 1977. 

On advice for aspiring screenwriters:

"Don’t start as a screenwriter. Screenwriting is not exactly writing. In some ways it’s harder, but you better learn the basics of how to use language and how to use language to create images that define your character and do it quickly, and the best way is short stories."
On how he would like to be remembered:

"[As a] professional. If somebody ever said that I was the ultimate professional I would love them because I just think …there’s something terrific about having a job to do, and doing it, and doing the work that you love, and loving it."
Watch David Jacobs’ full interview and read his obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.